The core of social poetics is to treat essentialism as a social strategy. This deliberately reverses the goal of most essentializing, which is to turn happenstance into the permanent and the inevitable. In this chapter, I shall be concerned with the application of ideas that have emerged from the study of rhetoric. I do not limit that domain to the verbal, but follow a convention already widely accepted in art history and related fields whereby any symbolic system used as an instrument of persuasionor, as we might now say, used for performative effect-can be examined under this heading.